COMMENTARY | Rory McIlroy has been on a rollercoaster this golf season.
Currently ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the lad from Northern Ireland has been anything but consistent so far in 2013. Unless, of course, you want to say he's been consistently inconsistent.
On the PGA Tour side, McIlroy has played in 10 events and has made the cut nine times. He also withdrew from the Honda Classic - at which he was the defending champion - citing pain in his wisdom tooth. In the nine events which he made the cut, McIlroy's finishes range from a T-57 at the Memorial Tournament in June to a solo-second place performance at the Valero Texas Open in April.
For the European Tour, the story remains the same. He's played six events (including the Masters, US Open and two WGC events which count on both tours), missing the cut twice. His best finish on the Euro Tour came at the WGC-Cadillac Championship where he tied for eighth.
Overall, that's three missed cuts in 12 total events. For a player who just penned a $100 million sponsorship deal with Nike Golf earlier in the year, McIlroy's performance to this point is beginning to look like a poor investment. So what gives?
Jack Nicklaus was recently asked this question during a television interview at Wimbledon, where the avid tennis fan was in attendance. McIlroy's relationship with female tennis star Caroline Wozniacki has been a hot topic in both sports in recent months.
"He's been sort of doing other things, and now he's back wanting to play golf again, and he's struggling," Nicklaus said. "Before, he was grinding, grinding, grinding to get where he wanted. Now all of a sudden he's had a little bit more leisurely (sic), and he's got a little less pressure. You need the pressure. I think it's great to have the pressure; I enjoyed having it every time I walked on a golf course."
This is an interesting view from the golf legend as many fans could argue the opposite is true and that McIlroy is faltering under more pressure than he's ever faced. Expectations have never been higher for the Ulsterman considering his two major victories and the aforementioned massive sponsorship deal. Furthermore, with Tiger Woods clearly past the prime in his career, many believed McIlroy would be the new face of the game.
Nick Faldo, who was never one to keep his opinions close to his chest, believes the true culprit in all of this is McIlroy's new Nike equipment.
"Rory very simply messed with a winning formula," Faldo said regarding McIlroy's switch from Titleist to Nike equipment. "He went from rookie of the year to world No. 1 and has been through a lot and thought he could start again.
"As I said from Day 1, I tweeted right away when it was announced that this was a dangerous move. People said, 'Oh, he's so talented, he can adapt.' Well, why should the world No. 1 be adapting to something new? As we discovered six months later, he's busy still trying putters, still trying drivers. It's not as easy."
A third opinion on what's bothering McIlroy focuses on his off-course business endeavors. As reported by the Irish Independent in May, McIlroy cut ties with agent Horizon Sports to start his own management company with his father and a group of friends. It seems that McIlroy has chosen - or was strongly encouraged -- to take control over his professional management on a more personal level. The move marked McIlroy's third switch in representation so far in his young career, having also previously left Chubby Chandler's International Sports Management two years ago.
It is unclear whether McIlroy's struggles in 2013 stem from a single cause or the culmination of multiple factors, especially since the golf star has remained tight-lipped and dismissive when asked. After all, golfers are allowed to have a bad year every once in awhile.
Still, the timing of McIlroy's decisions and following lackluster play prompts the speculation that he may have too much on his plate.
Adam Fonseca has been covering professional golf since 2005. His work can also be found on the Back9Network. Follow Adam on Twitter at @chicagoduffer.
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